Ben’s story: Putting service users in charge
Five years ago, I could see that the outcomes for Essex’s substance misuse services were ok, but they were the outcomes that we as bureaucrats had chosen.
While we paid lip service to involving communities and service users, we didn’t really do it. But I firmly believed that we could achieve more by working with people with lived experience. We had to make a change, we had to grasp the opportunity to do something differently.
Working with people in recovery and in treatment across the system in Essex, we created the charity ‘The Essex Recovery Foundation – Revolutionising Recovery’, entirely chaired and run by people in Essex communities, in recovery and their family members.
I firmly believed that we could achieve more by working with people with lived experience.
Slowly but surely, we are transferring responsibility for all of our drug and alcohol agenda to the charity. This includes control of the budget, and the strategy.
We are also negotiating a seat for the charity on the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, so they can be at the top level of decision making across all health and wellbeing commissioning.
Power that once sat with a small group of people in the public health team will now sit with the community directly affected – so they can define their own outcomes, allocate their own resources, and work with providers to build a better treatment and recovery system.
Why I support a Community Power Act
This has been one of the most exciting bits of work that I’ve ever been involved with. It’s also been a process of ceding control and realising that actually, things are going to get better with the community in charge of its own provision, its own functions, and its own services and support networks.
Power that once sat with a small group of people in the public health team will now sit with the community directly affected
A Community Power Act would help more councils to realise these advantages. It would engage and empower communities to self-organise where it really matters. It would directly link communities to powers and influences that impact on their daily lives. And it would ensure communities are at the heart of all relevant decision making.
Ben Hughes, Essex County Council